Dr. Carl Tanzler and his morbid obsession with a mummified sweetheart

Dr. Carl Tanzler and His Morbid Obsession With a Mummified Sweetheart

Carl Tanzler was the doctor of Maria Milagro de Hoyos – a patient who died on the operating table of an obsessed German-born radiologist at the Hospital in Key West, Florida.

When Maria died, Tanzler dug up her grave and did his best to preserve the body; he slept beside her mummified body and even had intercourse with the corpse for years before his morbid obsession was uncovered by the authorities.

During his childhood in Germany, Tanzler claimed to have seen visions of his true love – an exotic dark-haired woman. One day in 1930, when working as an x-ray tech at the U.S. Marine Hospital, he met Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, who was brought to hospital to seek treatment for tuberculosis. Tanzler, who was in his fifties and also known as Carl Von Cosel, quickly realized the dark-haired beautiful 21-year-old Cuban-American was his true love he had seen visions of.

Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos
Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos.
Carl Tanzler, the doctor of Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos
Carl Tanzler: The morbidly obsessed radiologist.

The Forbidden Morbid Love

At the time, there was no real cure for tuberculosis; a typically fatal disease at the time. Tanzler, who was not even a doctor, used his self-professed medical knowledge to treat Maria de Hoyos at her home. From a variety of experimental medications, to x-ray and electrical equipment. The doctor showered her patient with expensive gifts such as jewelry and clothing. Ultimately, Maria de Hoyos succumbed to her illness and died a year later. Tanzler paid for her funeral and even, with the family’s approval, built a mausoleum for his love, where he spent almost every night of his free time.


In April of 1933, Tanzler stole the body from the coffin, after hearing her spirit singing to him in Spanish and begging him to take her away. Tanzler re-attached the decomposing body together with wire and coat hangers. He placed glass eyes in the eye sockets, replaced the rotting flesh with silk cloth treated with wax, and treated her body with perfumes, disinfectants, and other preserving agents, to mask the odor of decomposition. He would then spend days with his mummified body, sometimes even taking her for a dance, but most of the time just lying next to her.

The laboratory of Carl Tanzler, who also went by the name of Carl Von Cosel
The laboratory of Carl Tanzler, who also went by the of name Carl Von Cosel.

The years went by, and the rumors about the macabre hobby of Tanzler began to spread. The sister of Maria de Hoyos, Florinda, confronted Tanzler at his home and discovered her sister’s mummified body. She alarmed the authorities, and Tanzler was arrested for grave robbing. The psychiatric evaluation found the morbidly obsessed man mentally competent to stand trial, but the charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had expired. At the time, there were not reports of necrophilia, but a paper tube in vaginal cavity was later discovered by pathologists.

Carl Tanzler being questioned by authorities
Carl Tanzler being questioned by authorities.
The mummified body of Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos
The mummified body of Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos.

Eventually, the corpse was reburried to an unmarked grave in Key West Cemetery, and Maria de Hoyos was finally able to rest in peace.

Separated from his dead love, Tanzler used a death mask to create a life-sized effigy of Maria de Hoyos and lived with it until his death.

Carl Tanzler: A man with an undying love for a corpse.
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